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Bitten by the Anti-Malaria Bug

Bitten by the Anti-Malaria Bug

One of the best parts about my job as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is constantly meeting people who are passionate advocates for the causes they believe in. Not only do these interactions reinvigorate my optimism for success on the issues I work on, but they also inspire me to learn and engage in new issues too. I had one such experience over the last two days. I showed up to the Nothing But Nets Champion Summit a few weeks ago as part of the RAC team working with our Nothing But Nets partnership, seeing my participation in the conference as one of the aspects and responsibilities of  our work on this important issue. But at the end of it, I left Capitol Hill as a Nothing But Nets Champion and advocate personally engaged and invested in the fight against malaria.

The United Nations Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign is a global grassroots campaign to raise awareness and funding to eradicate malaria, a leading cause of death among children in Africa. Though the UN Foundation had been fighting malaria for years, a column written by Rick Reilly in Sports Illustrated in 2006 challenging his readers to donate $10 to send insecticide-treated bed nets to communities at risk led to the creation of this campaign. The Reform Jewish community formed a partnership with the Nothing But Nets campaign in 2007 and has been involved in this initiative ever since.

When the campaign started, a child died from malaria every 30 seconds. In the past decade, we have reduced that figure to every 60 seconds, but a child dying every minute is still too many. Each year, more than 200 million people are infected with malaria, resulting in 600,000 deaths annually. Children under five are at the greatest risk and account for over 75% of overall malaria deaths. Fortunately, this disease that is caused by just a single mosquito bite is both preventable and treatable. Let me repeat that – preventable and treatable. That means we can help reduce and even end such high malaria mortality rates. We know the ways to eradicate malaria in our lifetime, we just need the means.

At a time when we have a number of deeply entrenched, deeply troubling problems, it is heartening to know that there is an issue that we can make a real impact in ameliorating. Can we turn down the opportunity to help solve a problem that kills hundreds of thousands of children annually? NBN and its supporters have raised more than $50 million to help distribute more than 7.5 million bed nets through UN partners on the ground, and malaria rates are dropping across Africa thanks to the 160 Champions at the summit and the thousands of other supporters. The progress is incredible, and it is time to finish the job.

Our Jewish values emphasize the value in each and every life: In the Mishnah Sanhedrin, we are told that “one who saves a life… it’s as if he saved an entire world.” Imagine the lives and worlds we could save by eradicating malaria, the future students, teachers, and leaders that could grow up and positively contribute to their communities. Let’s do it in our lifetime! Anyone can get involved - from students to CEOs - whether by “donating your birthday” to raise money or urging your Representatives and Senators in your district and on Capitol Hill to take action. Learn more about the Jewish community's partnership with Nothing But Nets and to find out how you can get involved in the fight against malaria!

Claire Shimberg is a 2014-2015 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Claire graduated in 2014 from the University of Pennsylvania, and is originally from Tampa, FL, where she is a member of Congregation Schaarai Zedek.

Claire Shimberg
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